The man who attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan 35 years ago will leave a Washington psychiatric hospital to live full-time in Virginia on Sept. 10, his lawyer said Thursday.
A federal judge ruled in July that 61-year-old John Hinckley Jr. is not a danger to himself or to others and can leave St. Elizabeths Hospital to live full-time at his mother’s home in Williamsburg, Virginia. At the time, Judge Paul L. Friedman ruled Hinckley could leave the hospital as soon as Aug. 5.
Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the 1981 shooting of Reagan, who died in 2004, his press secretary James Brady, who died in 2014, and two law enforcement officers outside a Washington hotel. In his July 27 ruling, Friedman wrote that Hinckley was a “profoundly troubled 25-year-old young man” when he shot Reagan in an effort to impress actress Jodie Foster, but he has not exhibited symptoms of major depression or psychotic disorder for more than two decades.
Friedman has gradually given Hinckley more freedom over the past decade, allowing him to spend longer and longer stretches at his mother’s home. For the past two-plus years, he has spent the majority of his time there: 17 days each month.
Hinckley’s long-time lawyer Barry Levine on Thursday called Hinckley’s departure from the hospital “a milestone” that was the result of a commitment by Hinckley and his family to “responsibly deal with disease.”
“People of goodwill should celebrate his achievement and success,” Levine said.
Levine said of his client: “I think he will be a citizen about whom we can all be proud.”
Friedman’s ruling says Hinckley will have to live for at least a year with his mother, Jo Ann, in her house in the gated community of Kingsmill. After that, he could move out and live on his own, with a roommate or in a group house.
Hinckley, who has been occasionally trailed by the Secret Service while in Williamsburg, must also find at least part-time employment or volunteer work. He will also have to participate in individual and group therapy, and he’ll have to return to Washington at least once a month so doctors can evaluate his mental state. He is also limited in where he can travel. The conditions of his leave will be re-evaluated in 12 to 18 months and some requirements could be modified or dropped.
At the time of Friedman’s ruling, Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis wrote in an article in The Washington Post that she was “not at all comfortable with the decision” to let Hinckley live full-time in Virginia but she was resigned to it. Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and District of Columbia police officer Thomas Delahanty, who were injured in the shooting, expressed similar resignation to the decision in interviews with the AP in July.
Hinckley will have to follow a lot of rules while in Williamsburg, but his longtime lawyer Barry Levine says he thinks he will be a “citizen about whom we can all be proud.”
This is what life will look like in Williamsburg for Hinckley:
Hinckley will have to work or volunteer at least three days a week. He hasn’t yet done paid work in Williamsburg, but he has volunteered at a church and a mental health hospital, where he has worked in the library and in food service.
HOME SWEET HOME
Hinckley will start off living with his elderly mother in her home in the gated community of Kingsmill. The unassuming home is on the 13th hole of a golf course. Hinckley’s room has a king-size bed and TV and is decorated with paintings he has done of houses and cats, according to court documents. In the past, he has done chores like cleaning, dishwashing, laundry and leaf-raking. After a year, he may live alone or with roommates.
Hinckley will continue to go to therapy while in Williamsburg. For at least the first six months he’ll see his psychiatrist twice a month and he’ll have to attend weekly group therapy sessions. He’ll also see a therapist individually. He’ll return to Washington once a month to St. Elizabeths’ outpatient department to discuss his mental health and compliance with the conditions of his leave.
Hinckley got a driver’s license in 2011. The court order in his case lets him drive within 30 miles of Williamsburg by himself, which gets him to Newport News but not Norfolk. He can go up to 50 miles from the city if accompanied by his mom, sibling or a therapist or social worker. He can also drive to and from Washington once a month for his outpatient meetings.
Hinckley has long considered himself a musician and an artist. He paints and plays the guitar and has been involved in both as part of his therapy. He’ll continue to see a music therapist once a month while in Williamsburg. At court hearings in the case in late 2011 and early 2012, lawyers discussed the fact that Hinckley had recently developed an interest in photography.
There are limits to how Hinckley can spend his leisure time. He also can’t drink or use illegal drugs. He can surf the web but, at least initially, he’s not allowed to search for information about his crimes or victims, among other things. He can’t have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or LinkedIn without permission.
Once Hinckley lives in Virginia he can register to vote there. Hinckley has expressed an interest in voting in the past and tried unsuccessfully to get a ballot in the 1980s and 1990s. Hinckley’s longtime lawyer Barry Levine told a newspaper in early August that he suspects his client will register to vote. Virginia’s deadline to register for the November presidential election is Oct. 17.
Don’t expect to see Hinckley giving any interviews. He’s barred from talking to the press.
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Text from the AP news stories, AP NEWSBREAK: Hinckley starts full-time life in Va. Sept. 10 and John Hinckley to leave DC mental hospital for Virginia.
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